Ron Zernicke, dean of University of Michigan's School of Kinesiology and Cy Frank, executive director of the Alberta Bone and Joint Health Institute in Canada, said sugar and fat also contribute to conditions like osteoporosis by weakening bones.
If this trend continues, this overlooked "silent robber" will begin to cripple large numbers of at-risk baby boomers, Zernicke said.
Sugar and fat weaken the bones in two ways. First, diets high in saturated fats and sugar block calcium absorption -- instead, calcium needed for healthy bones washes through the body in urine, the researchers said. Second, saturated fats tend to form insoluble "soaps," which coat the intestines and can block necessary calcium from bones.
Baby boomers were the first generation weaned on fast-food, creating a dietary legacy of high fat and sugar, but a third of its school-age children, including adolescents, are obese or overweight.
"Boomers themselves -- the oldest now 66 -- have reached the stage in life when they're most susceptible to bone and joint disorders," Zernicke said in a statement.
One-in-three women will break a hip due to osteoporosis by age 85, and about 20 percent will die within a year of the fracture, Frank said.
"Right now, roughly 12 million Americans age 50 have osteoporosis," he said.
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